Series Review – Blue Exorcist: Season 1

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of A-1 Pictures

I’m writing this review in order to properly cover the second season.  Surprisingly, the series I am reviewing today managed to receive a second season just this year, which is about six or so years after the first season ended.  Blue Exorcist is one of the best Shonen series around and the first season set a high standard for future Shonen adaptations.  I am Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth anime review.

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Story and Characters

Blue Exorcist features the main character, Rin Okumura, being introduced into the world that is filled with supernatural beings.  Raised by a priest, Rin lives a normal life with his twin brother Yukio.  One day, supernatural beings attack his home and Rin learns that his father is actually a member of an organization known as the Exorcists.  He also learns that Rin and Yukio are the sons of Satan.  Rin’s father is killed and Rin awakens his demon power by drawing the demon-slaying sword Kurikara.  After this event, Rin joins the True Cross Academy in order to train as an Exorcist.  Much to his surprise, Rin finds that Yukio is already a veteran exorcist and ends up becoming one of his teachers.

After this initial setup, the series turns largely episodic.  There is an overall plot regarding a demon war, but the series places a focus on small mission conducted by Rin and his classmates.  For the most part, this is really entertaining.  The cast of characters is interesting and actually manage to develop somewhat during the run of this series.  In particular, Rin and Yukio are the most interesting characters.  Rin’s never ending optimism and motivation to be as great an Exorcist as his father, makes his character endearing.  In contrast, Yukio is the more level-headed brother, but possesses a layer of darkness that is not present in Rin.  These two characters are the driving force of the show and make the overall run of episodes interesting.  However, this first season is mostly an introduction to the world of Blue Exorcist and this means that the story doesn’t really have any stakes until the last few episodes, which poses a problem because of the anime-only ending.

Around the middle of the season, the anime begins to deviate from the manga.  This deviation is very apparent because the story quality does dip immensely.  It is still entertaining, but it definitely drags down the show’s overall quality to the point where the second season just ignores the anime-original plot and begins right after the middle of the first season.  This is a move I will talk about more in length when I review the second season.  The manga source material is so much better that I would actually recommend watching until the end of the forest arc, then just moving on to the second season.  Again, the premise and cast creates a wonderfully entertaining story, but the anime-only ending of the first season diminishes the effect immensely.

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Animation and Sound

The presentation for Blue Exorcist is absolutely top notch.  Typically, Shonen shows have a diminished quality due to the large requirement of episodes asked of the studio.  Here, there is no such problem.  Despite having over twenty episodes, the animation quality maintains a good and consistent quality.  The characters possess interesting designs even when wearing school uniforms.  The non-action animation is similarly great due to the excellent use of facial expressions to capture the more comedic moments of the series.  Of course, the main draw is the action animation and it does not disappoint.  Much like with my discussion of the character design, any fight scenes involving Rin or Yukio is a delight to watch.  That does not mean that the rest of the action animation is bad.  Many of the other characters have unique abilities that make for some interestingly choreographed fights, but the ones involving Rin or Yukio stand above the rest.

The sound design is just as great as the animation.  For starters, the voice cast is absolutely excellent.  Rin’s naivety and optimism are portrayed perfectly.  Yukio’s young, but mature demeanor is also presented well.  The rest of the cast gives great performances that make for an enjoyable watch.  Blue Exorcist also features one of the strongest soundtracks in recent memory.  First off, the two openings are some of the best that anime has to offer.  The very poppy first ending also manages to impress despite the contrasting tone.  The great Hiroyuki Sawano composed the score and it shows.  The musical score is great in every way.  My personal favorite is the track called “X” which just amps up the action in all the right places.  Based on the presentation and sound design alone, Blue Exorcist is worth a watch.

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Final Verdict

Everything about Blue Exorcist manages to impress.  The story and characters are interesting while the animation and sound design maintain a high level of quality.  My only gripe is the deviation from the manga at about the halfway point.  For this reason, I give the first season of Blue Exorcist a Watch rating.  I also recommend watching until the end of the forest arc, then immediately starting the second season.  Everything after this arc in the first season is good, but rather inconsequential for the series as a whole.  I’ll be back next week with another review and thanks for checking this one out.

Watch Rating